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About 4,900 jobs to go as Sampoerna looks to axe two hand-rolling plants

| May 19, 2014

Sampoerna said on Friday that it planned to restructure its hand-rolled kretek cigarette (SKT) manufacturing operations in Indonesia, a development that would “impact” about 4,900 employees.

“The company has decided to discontinue the production in its SKT manufacturing facilities in Jember and Lumajang as of 31 May 2014, while at the same time continue to focus its SKT production at the five remaining production facilities, namely Surabaya (Rungkut I, Rungkut II and Taman Sampoerna), Malang and Probolinggo,” said a note posted on the website of Philip Morris International, which acquired Sampoerna in May 2005.

“Regretfully, this restructuring means that approximately 4,900 employees at [the] Jember and Lumajang manufacturing facilities will be impacted by the shutdown.”

Maharani Subandhi, corporate secretary at Sampoerna, said the decision to close the two facilities had been “extremely difficult” to take.

“We understand that this is unfortunate news for all of our employees, particularly those who are directly impacted in Jember and Lumajang SKT manufacturing facilities.

“Our priority today is to provide them with the best possible support and assistance during this difficult time. Those affected by this decision will receive severance package[s] above legal requirements, including Idul Fitri (THR) bonus. In addition, we will provide them with [the] opportunity to participate in the entrepreneurship training program to assist them in finding new source[s] of income.”

In April, PMI said Philip Morris Holland (PMH) had announced that it planned to end cigarette production at its factory at Bergen op Zoom, the Netherlands, with the loss of about 1,230 jobs.

And the announcement of the proposed Bergen op Zoom closure, which is due to happen by October, followed hard on the heels of Philip Morris Limited’s decision to stop cigarette manufacturing in Australia by the end of this year, with the loss of about 180 jobs at its factory at Moorabbin, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria.

The full text of the Indonesian announcement is at http://www.pmi.com/eng/media_center/press_releases/Pages/pt_hm_sampoerna_tbk.aspx.

Petition calls for more relaxed attitude to public-places smoking in Russia

| May 19, 2014

About 100,000 signatures have been collected on a petition calling for Russian lawmakers to backpedal on the country’s smoking ban, according to a RT TV/TV Novosti report.

An anti-tobacco law was approved in February 2013 and came into effect on June 1 last year.

However, restrictions are being introduced gradually, so that, since last summer, smoking has been outlawed in certain public places, including educational, health-care and sports facilities, airports, railway stations and bus stops.

The strictest part of the law comes into force on June 1, when smoking cigarettes will be banned in hotels, cafés, restaurants, marketplaces and on passenger trains and ships.

The Association of Restaurateurs and Hoteliers of Russia that unites more than 3,000 food and beverage establishments is demanding that the ban on smoking in restaurants, cafés and bars be postponed, amended or dropped.

The association and the all-Russia movement “For the rights of smokers” have drafted a list of amendments as well as launching the petition.

“In our country, for the majority of the year, the temperatures stand at below zero; making the guests go outside to smoke in the cold is just inhuman,” the association’s lawyer, Maria Orlova, was quoted as having told the Izvestia newspaper.

But Elena Mazur, the corporate communication director of the Rosinter Restaurants network, believes that customers won’t stay away for too long.

“We haven’t increased the number of places on the summer terraces, and haven’t resorted to any special measures,” she said.

Mazur said she believed that customers would have got used to the smoking ban by September and would return to restaurants.

Coresta Congress abstracts due Friday

| May 19, 2014

The deadline for the submission of abstracts of presentations to the 2014 Coresta Congress is Friday, according to the congress’ organizing committee.

The congress is due to be held at the Château Frontenac, Québec City, Canada, on Oct. 12–16.

The theme of the congress is “Building on experience to shape the future.”

The deadline for the early registration rate is Aug. 1, and the deadline for online registration is Sept. 15.

Poland to challenge EU menthol ban

| May 16, 2014

Polish officials are expected to try to block the ban on menthol cigarettes included as part of the EU’s new Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), which is due to come into force on May 20.

A story in the Warsaw Business Journal said that under the new TPD, sales of menthol cigarettes would be banned in the EU from 2020.

It said that Poland was one of the biggest tobacco producers in the EU and such a ban would strongly affect it.

Poland was currently working on an appeal to be filed with the EU’s Court of Justice. The Journal noted that an anonymous source quoted by the Puls Biznesu daily had said the Polish government wanted to demonstrate that the TPD was based on unsound legal grounds.

The source said the effect that the measure would have on internal markets was out of proportion to the benefits of curbing the health risk caused by smoking.

The Puls Biznesu indicated that such an appeal could be submitted to the Court before the EU elections scheduled for May 25.

Tobacco worker protection in own best interests of farmers, says grower body

| May 16, 2014

The Tobacco Growers’ Association of North Carolina has said that the great majority of tobacco farmers in NC fully understand that protecting and providing support for their workers is in their own best interests as well as those of their workforces.

The association was replying to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report issued on Wednesday, which said that children working on tobacco farms in the US were exposed to nicotine, toxic pesticides, and other dangers.

Farmers understand, the association said, that mistreatment of workers or violations of labor laws was the quickest way to lose workers and make it difficult to harvest a crop efficiently. There was no benefit to be had in mistreating farm workers.

The full text of the association’s press note, which was signed by executive vice president, Graham Boyd, appears below.

‘Today the Human Rights Watch released a report entitled “Tobacco’s Hidden Children”. The report makes note that greater than 90 per cent of US tobacco production occurs in four primary states which includes North Carolina. It makes allegations that the presence of children working on farms is wide spread and a prolific problem. While the United States labor laws permit children to be engaged in certain agricultural work endeavors, the report is careful to point out that its findings are not an illegal problem in America.

‘The HRW report suggests that child labor is an acceptable practice, and that it goes largely “unchecked”. The Tobacco Growers Association of NC (TGANC) takes issue with such distortions of facts. In the United States, enforcement of child labor laws is the jurisdiction of both the US Department of Labor as well as the State Departments of Labor. It is also known that any worker may anonymously report concerns or violations to these resource agencies. Further, the departments of labor are required to make random and unannounced inspection visits to farms in order to assure compliance of all related laws and regulations. Data reports that the US Department of Labor only recorded one incident of child labor violations in NC in the crop season for 2012.

‘It is widely understood that agriculture can be a labor intensive vocation and is known to embody long hours of work needs during peak periods given its often perishable condition of certain crops being harvested. Federal agencies rank agriculture as the second most hazardous occupation in America behind mining. These are not new facts to emphasize in the HRW report. These conditions are also well understood by any person who chooses to become engaged in farming either as an owner/operator or employee of a farm.

‘It is incumbent upon farmers who employ workers to understand labor laws and to work diligently to obey these requirements. It is the opinion of the Tobacco Growers Association of NC that the great majority of the farmers in the state place tremendous value and appreciation on the workforce that is willing to help them harvest crops. Most farmers go beyond what is required of them in terms of labor compliance.

‘Protecting and providing support for workers is an important aspect in maintaining a stable and quality workforce. Farmers understand that mistreatment of workers or violations of labor laws is the quickest way to create a situation of insufficient workers to harvest a crop in a timely and quality fashion. Every farmer in NC will tell you that their employees are among the greatest asset in the success of the family farming operation. There is absolutely zero benefit in mistreating farm workers.

‘TGANC condemns any mistreatment or misuse of workers. The fact that HRW points to 141 incidents of children working in a farm environment should be considered as isolated and rare occurrences in the United States and most certainly in North Carolina. The findings in this report should be viewed in this country as the exception rather than the norm. Additionally, it is unfortunate that the report chose to only focus on the crop of tobacco when there are dozens of other commodities that depend on hand harvest labor. It brings to question either a hidden agenda or some other adverse motivation that is anti-tobacco.

‘Our state produces approximately 400 million pounds of flue-cure tobacco in a season on 180,000 acres of land. It is estimated that the approximate number of farms in the state is 1,600 to 2,000. On average these farms may employ an average of 15-20 workers at peak periods. This calculation would equate to roughly 30,000 employees. Most of these workers will be seasonal and a high percentage will be classified as “guest workers”. If all 141 incidents in the HRW report had occurred in NC alone, that would be a ratio of .004 per cent of the workers. Could the statement be made that 99.006 % are doing it correctly? And, again the USDOL only reported one incident of child labor in 2012 in NC.

‘Great strides have been achieved in the US tobacco industry over the past four decades to drastically reduce the amount of labor required to grow and harvest a crop of tobacco. In a 1965 NC State University report by the agricultural economics department it recorded that the crop required 600 man hours per acre grown and delivered and average yield of 1,600 pounds. In 2013 that statistic is 50-75 man hours per acre and the yield average is above 2,300 pounds. Fifty per cent of the tobacco in NC is in fact, machine harvested. All modern operations use bulk curing barns and 100 per cent of farm tobacco is packaged by automatic bailing machines in preparation for sale. Many farms use mechanized “topping” devices and precision sucker control products that have helped to reduce that labor demand by 50 per cent as well. All of this mechanization is important in reducing the workers exposure to raw leaf tobacco.

‘Further, the advent of larger curing box systems and the attention to reduce leaf damage from excessive moisture in the curing process has resulted in many operators not starting field harvest when tobacco leaves are wet. This practice has also helped reduce any potential risks to “green tobacco sickness” that can result from handling wet leaves.

‘We see two important points coming from the HRW report. First, it is additional evidence that guest worker polices in this country need to be further addressed and improved in the ongoing immigration debate. Second, as an industry we will continue to prioritize the need to completely remove hand labor as a requirement in this crop so that its cultural practice can be similar to that of basic row crops such as corn, soybean and cotton. It remains the goal of TGANC to lead the technology discoveries that may someday result in tobacco that is not touched by human hands.’

The question is unusual – the answer, according to a new book, isn’t pretty

| May 16, 2014

The smokers’ group, Forest, and Buckingham University Press is due to host a drinks reception and talk by John Staddon, author of Unlucky Strike, Private Health and the Science, Law and Politics of Smoking.

Staddon, who is Professor Emeritus at the US’ Duke University and Honorary Visiting Professor at the UK’s University of York, has published more than 200 research papers and six books.

According to a synopsis of the book, which includes original illustrations by David Hockney, tough anti-smoking laws are now almost universal. Yet smoking has no public cost. It puts individual smokers at risk. It does not put the public purse at risk.

‘Prompted by this surprising discovery John Staddon looked further into the facts,’ the synopsis said. ‘The more he looked the weaker the case against smoking as a public health issue became. The case against environmental tobacco smoke, in particular, is exceedingly weak.

‘So if smoking has no public cost and the medical case for third party harm is weak, why are smokers victimised in so many ways?

Unlucky Strike tries to find out – and the answer is not pretty.’

The event is to be held at the Institute of Economic Affairs, 2 Lord North Street, London SW1 on June 11 from 18.15. (To attend RSVP events@forestonline.org or call Nicky on 01223 370156).

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